It’s easy to get frustrated as a teacher. We’ve all been there. The students aren’t behaving well. A lesson bombed. Students didn’t do well on an exam. All can lead to frustration on the job. Recently, I’ve been battling frustration at work, but not for one of the reasons mentioned above. First, let me say that I have an absolutely wonderful class of 5th graders this year. The students are sweet, have a great attitude toward learning, and I have no major behavior problems. Now some of you may be thinking, “Gosh, Brent! You’ve got it good.” Nope. I have it great. I am incredibly blessed to be able to teach the kids in my class and work with not simply colleagues, but friends. So what’s the problem, Brent?
Ironically, it has to do with technology, and the fact that my students have access to it. With the exception of one, every student in my classroom has a computer at home with Internet access, and more than half of them have an iPod (please don’t be a hater – I know I am fortunate). Yet despite these facts, most of my students this year are demonstrating apathy toward the resources I’m providing for them on my website (e.g. iPod flash cards, StudyCasts). For example, despite year-long offers of extra credit for downloading sets of iPod flash cards or the corresponding PowerPoints, only three students have taken advantage of this opportunity. Last week, I embedded a secret, “extra credit” password in a StudyCast. Twelve students said they listened to the broadcast, yet no one came to me with the password (a subsequent classroom discussion revealed they had not listened to the StudyCast, but were simply telling me what they thought I wanted to hear).
Again, I know I am fortunate. There are countless teachers who have students with limited or no access to technology. But my students DO have access to it, and they aren’t using it. Therein lies my frustration. I’ve asked myself, “Should I continue to spend my time and energy creating these technology resources if most of my students aren’t going to use them?” The answer is…absolutely.
In my frustration, I was reminded of the timeless story of the boy and hundreds of starfish that had washed up on a beach (if you’re not familiar with the story, watch this short video). It would be very easy to give up, saying, “What’s the use? These technology tools aren’t making a difference for all my students.” But the reality is, if even ONE student is able to use these resources to be more successful in the classroom, the time and effort spent creating them has been well worth it. While I’d love for all of my students to use these tools, one is enough, because after all, what if that one student was my son or daughter? Would I be grateful to the teacher for providing learning resources for my child, even though others in the class weren’t using them? You bet.
It’s my sincere hope that readers won’t view this post as an attempt on my part to say, “Look what I’m doing with technology!” Rather, my goal is to encourage teachers who, like me, have been frustrated because we feel like we’re not making a difference. If you’re providing your students with “extras,” let us remember not to get caught up in how many are using them, but rather to celebrate those that are. Because like the boy in the story, we can then say, “I made a difference for that one.”
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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